How does Shakespeare portray love in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

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iandavidclark3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As the other answer to this question discusses the play's examination of the complicated but empowering nature of love in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, I'd like to take a different approach (the other answer is entirely correct, of course; I just want to avoid repeating the same information). For my pat, I believe that the fantastical, magical, and bucolic backdrop of the play suggests that human love is in tune with the mysterious and magical qualities of the natural world.

Most of the play's main action takes place in the woods outside Athens, an ethereal realm haunted by fairies. Following the tangled relationships of the four main characters, we're introduced to the whimsical and magical world of Robin "Puck" Goodfellow, King Oberon, and Queen Titania, a fantastical place of love potions, fairies, spells, and dreams. Set against this backdrop, the relationships in the play take on a magical, dreamlike quality, and that fits perfectly with the setting. By setting his tale of love in such a magical place, Shakespeare suggests that the emotion of love is itself akin to the dreamlike beauty of the natural world, and so, just as we cannot fully understand the fairy world, love remains mysterious and fantastical. This quality is one of the aspects of the play that makes its depiction of love so enchanting.   

goreadabook eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As Lysander says, "The course of true love never did run smooth."  Love in A Midsummer Night's Dream is portrayed as complicated and difficult, yet Shakespeare does it in a way that is humorous and lighthearted.  In this play love often brings out the worst in people, yet in the end it's what brings everyone back together.  Love has the ability to spellbind people as Shakespeare represents symbolically through Puck's actions, and we see how intensely complicated it can be when it nearly tears apart Hermia's family and causes argument between the four main human characters.  Love permeates all aspects of life in this play and we see the awesome power it has over human emotion, psychology, and behavior.  Of course, no matter what happens, love prevails in the end validating Lysander's quotation at the beginning of the play.

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A Midsummer Night's Dream

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